6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Saddle club

PUBLISHED: 15:50 24 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 20 February 2013

Ash

Ash

It can be expensive to run a horse, but Kent riders are enjoying the pleasures of horse 'ownership' at only a fraction of the time and cost, thanks to a new scheme running in Maidstone

Man and horse share a special bond and in the UK nearly five million of us ride. Yet for many, the time and cost commitment of horses is a barrier to enjoying the pleasure of a regular partnership with our equine friends.

Understanding this predicament has inspired Kent equestrian mother and daughter team, Dora and Clara Pilkington, to launch an innovative 'sharing' scheme at their yard in Thurnham, near Maidstone.

Equi Timeshare, as the name suggests, offers riders more than just a weekly riding lesson. The scheme at Coldblow Equestrian Centre gives members regular, full or half-day access to a chosen horse to ride and care for as their own.

"It really is horse ownership on your terms," explains Dora, who says the beauty of the scheme lies in its flexibility and savings. "Horses are a major undertaking and Equi Timeshare allows people to enjoy the pleasure without the full-time commitment."

With daily fees ranging from £15 to £30, Equi Timeshare members have the freedom to hack out over the nearby North Downs, take a lesson with the school's instructors or compete at professional events.

And when the riding's over, mucking in - or out - with a few jobs around the yard reduces costs.

"The benefits speak for themselves," says Dora, "Owners usually have to budget for feed, saddlery, insurance, bedding and vets fees, not to mention the unforeseen expenses. Our members don't have these overheads. We take care of them."

While some private owners offer similar arrangements, it's unusual to find a public scheme like Dora's and it's clear the idea is working well.

"Feedback from members is incredibly positive," she says. "Many have families and full-time jobs, so they love being able to balance both worlds, home and horses."

A further glance around the Pilkingtons' large, modern yard near Detling reveals that Coldblow is far from your average riding establishment. Above the large stable block is a purpose-built lecture room for the students who train at the centre. Then there are the youngsters who enjoy its supervised weekend clubs. But most striking of all are the large brown eyes and golden coats of Dora's three Henson horses.

Ash, Enya and Quidditch are three of only five Hensons living in the UK. Brought to England from northern France, these beautiful horses have the distinct honey colouring of their parentage - Norwegian Fjord ponies and Thoroughbreds. And while largely unheard of in England, Dora believes it won't be long before these friendly, adaptable horses grow in popularity.

"They are just a joy to own," says Dora, whose own interests in carriage driving led her to the breed. "There's not an activity they can't master." A point born out by the achievements of this trio who have already trekked across France, pulled the carriage of Sophie the Countess of Wessex and excelled at the unusual pastime of polocrosse. "We have to keep up with them, not the other way round," she laughs.

Looking forward to the summer Dora has high hopes Equi Timeshare and her growing stable yard will help even more riders enjoy the rewarding pleasures of life in the saddle. "There is something very special about the relationship you build with horses," she adds,"and if we can help others share even a little of this, I'm happy."

Sarah Howarth, 43, from Maidstone is an Equi Timeshare member. Through the scheme Sarah spends two days a week with Quidditch, Coldblow's youngest Henson. "It's a great idea and makes a lot of sense," says Sarah who has tried similar schemes in Europe.

"I often have to travel with work and have my family, so the flexibility of Equi Timeshare is brilliant"

Sarah may only ride twice a week but the pair have bonded quickly. "Quidditch is only four, so he's the baby of the yard. But he's so bright and willing to please that he's learning fast."

Last summer the pair entered their first dressage competition and were delighted to come second. "I haven't ridden competitively since I was teenager and he was the youngest horse there", says Sarah, "So I was absolutely thrilled for us. We're learning together. He's such a bold little character, I love every minute with him."

More from Out & About

Thu, 10:47

Walking through the delightful valley of Elham is an absolute treat. Enter an oasis of peace and quiet with a whole array of shops and pubs in Elham at the end

Read more

With its unique landscape, rich history and strong cultural identity, we take a look at the Romney Marsh and the towns of Hythe and New Romney

Read more

Put away your digital devices and get back to nature with a few nights under canvas and the starry night skies this summer

Read more

This popular coastal town offers everything from wild walks and urban art to regenerated spaces

Read more

Expert conservation work carried out at Knole over the past two years now means that its attics are open to visit

Read more
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sarah Sturt reviews the jazz-age twist of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Globe

Read more
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The summer season of festivals has started! We've picked six great events in June to celebrate

Read more
Friday, May 24, 2019

Drink in the sight and smell of our native blooms on one of these wonderful wildflower walks

Read more

Wherever you go in Kent you'll find people just like us pounding the streets, parks and waterways. So why are we all running?

Read more
May 2019
Monday, May 20, 2019

Kent has a wealth of beautiful gardens to visit and throughout the open garden season you'll find an array of stunning choices. Here's a selection of our favourites

Read more
April 2019

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life